JIS News

Noted Nigerian author, Professor Chinua Achebe, is expected to headline a cultural event slated for January 2 at Emancipation Park in Kingston, as part of activities to mark the Bicentenary Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Trade of enslaved Africans to Jamaica.
Spearheaded by the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee (JNBC) and the Haiti-Jamaica Society, the event will recognize Haiti’s role in the struggle against the transatlantic slave trade. The occasion will also honour the Jamaican ancestors, who emerged to continue the freedom journey. In the meantime, the JNBC has organized an extensive programme of activities to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans to Jamaica. The year-long celebrations, which will run from January 2007 to January 2008, will be observed under the theme: ‘Our Freedom Journey.Honouring our Ancestors.’
Addressing a recent JIS Think Tank session, Chairperson of JNBC, Professor Verene Shepherd, explained that “the theme was selected based on the committee’s desire to highlight the remarkable triumph of Jamaicans over the middle passage legacy.”
According to Professor Shepherd, the process leading up to the phased abolition of slavery deserved to be observed and marked by the descendants of its victims everywhere. “If we who are in a position to know and understand our history and its continued legacies, fail to observe this period in history, who then will do it?” she argued.
Commenting on the significance of the celebrations, she noted that the period would provide a space for the Caribbean to reflect on and explore its historical relationship with the transatlantic trade and slavery. Additionally, the event would provide an opportunity for the committee to educate the nation about the “other side” of the abolition story and to memorialize the black freedom fighters appropriately. “The activities will help to raise public awareness and instill pride in our people about a past, which while full of pain, also gives cause for pride,” she stated.
Outlining some of the activities, Professor Shepherd noted that the year 2007 will mark the 120th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s birth and on January 25, the committee will host a public lecture on Garveyism to celebrate the journey to the rise of black intellectuals in Jamaica and the Diaspora. On Bob Marley’s birthday, February 7, there will be a film festival at the Bob Marley Museum, which will showcase films on black liberation, slavery and Garveyism. On the 10th of March, a day before the opening ceremony for the ICC Cricket World Cup, there will be a public lecture highlighting the role of the descendants of enslaved Africans in the development of West Indies cricket at Water Square in Falmouth. To give the ancestors a proper burial, the committee will host an all island funeral service on the 25th of March. On Emancipation Day, August 1, the committee will launch its Bicentennial Stamp and will host events in Kingston and St. Ann on August 17, to mark the birthday of Marcus Garvey. From December 2 to 8, there will be a conference on ‘Discourses of Resistance, Abolition and Black Liberation in Montego Bay and Accompong, St. Elizabeth’ to highlight the varied discourses of resistance, marronage and ideologies of black liberation as espoused by 19th Century activists.
On December 26 and 27, the committee will host a number of wreath-laying ceremonies at freedom monuments across the island including at Kensington and Sam Sharpe Square, to mark the anniversary of the emancipation war of 1831-1832.
The yearlong activities will come to an end on January 25, 2008, with the unveiling of “arrival point monuments” to mark the spots where Africans landed in Jamaica.
The JNBC was established in December 2005 by the Government of Jamaica, with a mandate to honour those who fought to end the middle passage and celebrate the early beginnings of nationhood, as well as to educate the nation about the process of abolition from the perspective of the Caribbean.